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Calvin Peters of Valley Stream shot by police after stabbing student in synagogue, NYPD says

Calvin Peters, left, during his altercation with police

Calvin Peters, left, during his altercation with police on Dec. 9, 2014. Photo Credit: YouTube

An NYPD officer shot and killed an emotionally troubled Valley Stream man early Tuesday inside a Brooklyn synagogue after the man stabbed and seriously wounded an Israeli student and lunged at the officer with a knife, police said.

The officer opened fire on Calvin Peters, 49, after the assailant attacked Levi Rosenblatt, 22, inside the Crown Heights synagogue at 770 Eastern Pkwy., police said.

Rosenblatt, who lives in Israel, was studying about 1:40 a.m. inside the basement of the synagogue, the world headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, when Peters attacked him, police said. The synagogue is open 24 hours a day, according to spokesman Motti Seligson.

Rosenblatt was listed in serious but stable condition late Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. Peters was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital, officials said.

The attack unnerved many in a Crown Heights Hasidic community still on edge less than a month after two Palestinian cousins, armed with meat cleavers, knives and a handgun, killed four ultra-Orthodox rabbis inside a Jerusalem synagogue during morning prayers.

Witnesses said before he attacked Rosenblatt, Peters made "anti-Jewish" remarks, said NYPD Commissioner William Bratton, adding that the stabbing did not appear to be terrorism-related. A bystander filmed much of the three-minute confrontation between Peters and three officers.

Bratton said that "preliminarily, the shooting looks like it was justified."

Because of witnesses' statements, the NYPD's hate crimes unit will investigate to see whether the attack by Peters was a bias incident, Bratton said.

Peters first entered the synagogue just after 5 p.m. before leaving, police said. He returned at midnight but was escorted out. When Peters came back, he had a 9-inch knife with a 41/2-inch blade, police said.

He stabbed the student on the left side of the head and neck after blurting out "I am going to kill you," according to witnesses and investigators.

Someone then alerted Police Officer Timothy Donohue, 25, stationed at a command post outside the building.

He called for backup and went inside, Bratton said. Two additional officers in a 71st Precinct sector car -- Roberto Pagan, 29, and Kevin Haniff, 29 -- rushed to the location and all three faced down the knife-wielding Peters, Bratton said. Video footage shows Peters brandishing the knife and moving around the room as officers repeatedly order him to drop it.

At one point, Peters obeys their commands and places the knife on a table, a move that prompts Pagan to holster his gun and approach with handcuffs. But Peters picks up the knife and appears to lunge toward the officer. Pagan then opened fire, Bratton said.

At Peters' Valley Stream home, his brother-in-law, Jeffrey St. Clair, said Peters suffered from bipolar disorder but was a "loving father to two kids."

NYPD chief of detectives Robert Boyce said Peters, who had 19 arrests, lived on Social Security and didn't keep a visit Tuesday with a Long Island psychologist.

After the attack, the NYPD increased security at Jewish institutions across the city as a precaution, de Blasio said. Some didn't think that was enough.

"The police department is limited in what it can do," said Assemb. Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn). "We need to take some . . . responsibility ourselves, there is no other way."

With Nicole Fuller,

Alison Fox and Emily Ngo

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